There would be no expression of shock, no frantic wailing Saturday morning from Alex Rodriguez or his people. This was coming. They knew it was coming, sure as an 0-2 slider.
The question now, what do they do with that slider?
With a slow bat, a weary eye, a daunting deficit, what now?
Rodriguez on Saturday was notified he’d be suspended for the 2014 season and postseason. When he returns, assuming he returns, he’ll be nearly 40. It will have cost him nearly $25 million, his salary for 2014. The league that had once looked upon him as the antidote for a shameful era – the likes of Barry Bonds and a home run record few believe in – had fought hard and fought dirty to ensure Rodriguez would pay for his alleged chemical indulgences.
One-hundred-and-sixty-two games isn’t 211 games, but it was close enough for Bud Selig. When he came down on Rodriguez last summer, he intended to ban Rodriguez through the 2014 season. So here we are. All the thrashing around, the appeal, the lawsuits, the retainer fees, the outbursts, they’ve so far gained Rodriguez 44 games, those played amid public awkwardness under forbidding skies in August and September.
MLB wins. The New York Yankees, free from Rodriguez’s salary and with an eye on turning that into Masahiro Tanaka, win. A-Rod?
More of the same.
Maybe he finds a legal avenue back to the field. Maybe he barges into training camp, makes a spectacle of himself. Maybe he spends the summer on an endless loop, ascending and descending courthouse steps, lawyers in tow, smiling, waving, tan.
For it is a dire day when the inevitable comes, when the game goes away, when the infamous Tony Bosch releases a statement that comments on your misfortune, when the people who really believe in your cause wouldn’t fill a good-sized banquet table.
His league has turned on him. His employer is over him. His union has done all it can. His lawyers are getting rich, an hour at a time. Well, richer.
So, Alex Rodriguez is in his element.
And this is all so terrible. Maybe not terrible, but sad. Certainly sad.
“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise,” Rodriguez said in his statement, “as the deck has been stacked against me from [Day 1].”
He blamed the system and the witness. He said he’d fight for his fellow players. He said he’d be back.
But what exactly was Day 1?
Perhaps it arrived with his first big contract, the one that would make him wealthy forever and brought the consequences of expectations and scrutiny beyond any that had come before.
Day 1 may have been the moment a friend, or a teammate, or a cousin told him he could be better through science, through this stuff in a vial that nobody else had to know about. Or it was the moment he gave into it, to testosterone and Primobolan, more than a decade ago. Or the day the survey tester showed up holding a cup.
Maybe it was the morning he looked in the mirror and no longer saw the kid out of Miami by way of Washington Heights, but rather an aging superstar whose body and skills were becoming less reliable. Could he live up to the second big contract, here, in New York, in the shadow of men who’d become iconic?
Was it the day he met Bosch? Was it the day he might have chosen to go along with it again? Into the teeth of a toughened drug program and a more vigilant commissioner?
Was that Day 1?
Or, no, when the clinic and its proprietor were exposed, and he had no choice but to lie about his relationship with Bosch, and to hope it would all go away. But things don’t go away anymore. Not things like that.
Yes, the league would investigate them all, but then it was about one man, about Rodriguez. And, probably, that’s the day one he was talking about, the day they came for him, when everyone else had surrendered. He’s right, of course, the deck was stacked and he knew it, because he’d lived it, so he would not walk away clean. The Day 1's were adding up.
Maybe this means he never plays again, but it would not be like Rodriguez to leave, not without every dollar he has coming. So, he’ll live with Saturday’s decision, the latest Day 1, and follow his attorneys to Day 2. By Day 3, which is Monday, they’ll be back in court.
And still scheming against that slider.